The Feb. 11 meeting was opened with Dr Brain reiterating that the dialogue focus was not the “problem” of the “housed vs unhoused”, but finding “Solutions” to the dilemma of community response to this segment of it’s population. This meeting is to focus on the “Rights and Responsibilities of both, as well as the question of “Criminalizing” this population for it’s survival mechanisms.
The students of New College recapped the previous meetings as follows:
1. Nov. 19, 2014: Learning to lead:
The Students reviewed the need for a new definition of community that included the dilemma of the houseless, and review of different research models that addressed that. The Driving Question being, how do we get to the point of the Community at Large taking a leadership role?
2- Dec 10, 2015 Policy by Process
This meeting addressed the “Swiss Cheese Model” of “lining up the holes “ of needs and provisions to reveal the primary actions needed to fill in the holes or deficits. This meeting discussed the demographics that make up the houseless community and how to engage them in mutual benefit, rather than enabling less than constructive habits that demean rather than empower.Concerns were expressed about the sub-groups who were underserved, or disqualified from opportunities to move up the economic ladder due to criminal and employment histories, etc From there, discussions centered on assessing and coordinating all available resources, including, but not limited to, legal, political,funding, and stake holders. The public sector was identified as a prime source of needed human resources through donations of talents, expertise, nurturing, time and materials.
3. Jan. 10, 2014 The Moral Imperative
The questions discussed were, “When does help, harm ?,” Panhandling and What is the first, or most fundamental, Community Imperative or Community Response to and relieving of the condition of the houseless. The latter included equal treatment from all service agencies, documents for voting, confidentiality and privacy of personal information.
4. Feb. 11, 2015 Community Rights and Responsibilities
In student interviews of local Service Providers and Activists, the following common theme recurred.. A prime need for Community Action, regarding the Houseless population, is for them to engage one another so each can overcome their fears of “the other,” and correct misinformation, such as the unsupported perception that 94% of panhandling income goes to drugs. Once given this opportunity, each segment of the citizenry can learn to respect and include one another in the discussions and action plans to fulfill it’s most fundamental obligation.as one community. That fundamental obligation is to provide safety, security and a sense of well-being to ALL it’s citizens, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich.
Then Community Dialogue was opened through the “World Cafe” format of posing questions to small groups who quickly discussed given questions, continued the discussion while rotating to new groups, then share their conclusions and insights with the whole general community of the meeting. The following were the questions and thoughts within my group, then the general insights that followed:
1. Who are the members of the Community ?
ALL are members of the Human Community. Legally anyone is a member of a community from the moment they arrive. Those who interact with the community,. help and contribute are definitely members, but what about those who don’t or can’t contribute ?
2. What responsibilities are part of being a member of a community ?
Obeying the rules of that community. Love your neighbor as yourself. Provide affordable mental health care. Provide a program option to living on the streets. What about the “element” of the community that doesn’t accept responsibility ? What about the right to choose to be part of a program, or not, ensuring the right of the homeless to not be held “captive against their will” ? We concluded that all have the right to live and progress in a program designed for their needs. They would have the right to decline, and make their own way, as they choose, as long as their way does not break the rules/laws of the community, nor infringe on the rights of others to safety, security and sense of well-being.
3. How do you know when all the Rights and Responsibilities of a community are being addressed and followed. All are engaged productively, and helping one another, to their personal capacity. Smiles, stride and other visible signs are present that denote a general sense of happiness, purpose and well-being.
Comments expressed at the culmination of the meeting.
1. State Supreme Court decision re: Pottinger vs Miami has already addressed “criminalizing” the homeless for conducting their daily needs on the streets. It states that only when an alternative to street homelessness is provided, can a community impose sanctions on such acts. In several communities the consequence of continuing such “street survival” acts after an alternative is available is that “criminal prosecution” for these acts are dropped, or modified, if they allow themselves to be returned to and re-enrolled in such a program.
2. The public also has the right to not have their sense of safety, security and well-being compromised by the approaches of pan-handlers, and the accumulation of trash and debris on the streets, degrading the beauty and well-being of the environment that uplifts the spirit.
3. Children are citizens of the community, too, and are not “cast out” because they have not yet developed the life skills that empower them to contribute to their own well-being, let alone that of the general community. We must likewise accept the houseless at all stages of their development, and provide the guidance and nurturing that they may have missed along the way, that develops the life-skills of self-reliance, initiative, discovery and belief in their unique talents and potentials, plus teaching what it means to be good citizens of a inter-dependent, thriving community.
4. In response to who decides the capacities and expectations of the houseless in regard to their community responsibilities, one answer proposed was as follows. If you think of a community as an extended family, the answers become much clearer. In the best families, children are loved unconditionally, accepted and nurtured as “unproductive” infants. As they exhibit desires and budding capacities, like walking, having a sense of order (putting away toys) taking care of their own needs (making their beds), contributing to family needs (washing dishes,taking out trash) they are given play that empowers them to learn the steps leading to that goal. Thus they gradually become more “productive,” contributing members of the family’s well-being and distribution of needed services. As talents are revealed, those become contributions, also to the decor (pictures) and enrichment of family life. This progress “by-baby-steps,” within the security of the family, encourages and empowers the child to extend those skills and talents to greater circles of community, beyond the family.
In Mj Frizzell’s closing, he raised the rhetorical question: How did YOU go from wanting to be informed of the homeless because you were annoyed by their presence to being Heartbroken by their condition ? And how do we move forward as One Community to take our research and dialogue to the place of creating a good policy for all ? It is the hope that these questions will be addressed in the next three sessions.
March 11 at 6:30 pm at the Herald Tribune Building, the topic of Affordable Housing for All will be addressed. The general perspective being is that it is a good thing, until it is in YOUR neighborhood.
April 15, same time and place, Social Mobility will be addressed.
May 13 meeting will be held at New College at :630 pm when the concluding topic of Policy Implications for Solutions will be addressed. As Mj Frizzell confirms research, this must come from the community , as the “experts” all think the problem stems from and is resolved by their own field of expertise.
I join the founders and participants in this dialogue, hoping that YOU, with representatives from all the segments of our community will lend your voice and ideas to the process of building a Humane Community worthy of that name.
With sincere hope for a United Effort in establishing an Action Plan the provides the basics for all, and the opportunity to advance and thrive within all communities, I remain in this service,
Bay to Bay Services.org